January 2, 2016

Jar of memories

On New Years, most everyone does their own little mental review of the past year. Hopefully recalling some highlights, but often recalling things that you did or didn't do that you would like to rectify as you move forward to the clean slate of a new year. 

It is pretty easy to recall the big events. New jobs, new houses, new relationships, fun trips and big days on the calendar. The negative events - lost jobs, broken relationships, illness, passings and other losses - seem to leave marks more permanent on our psyche. It easy to let the smaller moments that lie between these major events fade into the background. In more quiet years you are left wondering what you even did with those 365 days you were given. 

I don't remember where I saw it exactly. It was probably a Facebook post, but it definitely had a Pinterest kind of feel. Fill a jar full of slips of paper with notes and memories as you go through the year. Then come the turning of the calendar page, go through the slips of paper and recall the smaller moments that make up a life. The practice not only helps a memory fading with age and electronic distraction, but it also helps bring you into the present to recognize these smaller experiences, to appreciate joy and connection as they happen. Like a similar project of taking a photo a day, it forces you to open your eyes to the world around you, and to see the beauty that often fades into the background. 

I opened up my jar this morning. Like many resolutions, I was pretty active for the first few weeks, but the dedication faded as the months went by, ending in my last entry on March 1st. All but one of the memories was about spending time with friends. Celebrating New Year's Eve at the Keg with friends I had met there twenty years before, and gathering with even more people the following week to mark the closing of the restaurant that brought such wonderful connections. Another slip recalled meeting my brothers for drinks and conversation, a new tradition started and continued through 2015 for which I am very thankful. The last slip was about waking up with Jennifer in my new home The Sanctuary, sitting on the couch, staring out at the lake, cups of coffee and good conversation. 

Strangely absent were those tinier moments. Moments where I saw physical beauty and felt deeper connection with the natural world. Moments where it felt like I saw behind the veil. Tiny moments that brought epiphany or revelation. I know they were there, but they have faded without the anchor of a note or photo to help me bring them forth again. 

I am going to use the memory jar again in 2016. I hope to make the habit stick throughout the year, again for the dual purpose of remembering these experiences at the end of the year, as well as to be more focused in the moment and to recognize these tinier snippets that make up this wonderful life. 

This New Year's Eve was a quiet evening at home, and New Year's Day was not much more memorable in the grand scheme. The past few years I have started off the year with a 5k and dip into Lake Washington. This year I went on a solo run in the afternoon, but spent the morning admiring the lake from the relative warmth of my house over some pancakes and coffee. It was more of an easing into this new year rather than jumping in head first. I did at least take a photo of the beauty recognized in the moment. 

As I was typing this, I saw a reflection in the computer screen of a Blue Jay landing on the railing just outside my window. I turned to see it, but as I moved to get my phone/camera, it took off. No picture of the day. A moment that I would surely forget a year later, if not an hour later if I hadn't been writing here at the time. I don't think it warrants the highlight reel of the memory jar, but a nice moment in time. And I think nature is calling me to get dressed and get outside into the frosty day.